What are the strengths and weaknesses of Erikson's development theory?
Erik Erikson created a theory of development that traces human life from infancy all the way through mature adulthood. Let's look at this theory and examine some of its strengths and weaknesses.
Erikson's theory proposes eight psychosocial stages that cover a person's whole life. Each stage features a particular conflict, important event, and desired outcome. School-age children from age six through eleven, for instance, work on the industry versus inferiority conflict. School is the event for this stage, and the desired outcome is confidence.
Erikson's theory has several strengths. For one thing, it covers the entire life of an individual. In doing so, it recognizes that people continue to develop throughout their lives. The theory also recognizes social connections and relationships in development. The theory does not just focus on the characteristics of each stage but also on the conflicts, events, and even outcomes of the stage. This is more detailed than most theories and better captures the reality of human life. Further, the theory helps individuals understand themselves and allows for the identification of crisis points in various stages that counselors can focus on. Finally, the theory opens itself to further classification through sub-stages.
There are weaknesses to the theory, however. For one thing, it does not explain how people move from one stage to another. Further, it does not account much for individual differences or for differences in culture or social environment. Researchers have pointed out, too, that the stages lack much in the way of connection to each other. They are, some have remarked, too generic as well and therefore may not be as useful. Further, by identifying only one conflict, one event, and one outcome per stage, the theory ignores other possible conflicts, events, and outcomes that may be just as important. The resolution of the conflicts is not fully described either.